Maryland men’s basketball has been near-unstoppable at home this season, and it was presented with a major opportunity to pick up a resume-building, ranked win when it welcomed No. 21 Indiana to a lively XFINITY Center Tuesday night.
The Terps (15-7, 6-5 Big Ten) struggled on the offensive end of the floor — shooting just 34% from the field and and 22.7% from three — but rode a sublime defensive showing to a 66-55 win over the Hoosiers (15-7, 6-5).
“I thought both teams played really well defensively,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “I thought it was a really physical battle.”
Indiana had its five-game winning streak snapped and was held to about 19 points under the 73.9 points per game it was averaging in conference competition entering Tuesday. It turned the ball over 12 times and was unable to take advantage of an 18-point, 20-rebound performance from senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis.
The Terps, who improved their home record to 12-1 overall and 6-0 in conference games, had their struggles too, but placed trust in graduate guard Jahmir Young. He started hot by scoring the team’s first five points and never looked back, leading all scorers with 20 points; he has scored at least 20 in all home Big Ten games.
“They bring it every time,” Young said, referencing Maryland’s home fans. “We’re 6-0 at home [in the Big Ten] for a reason, and they’re a huge part of that.”
Sophomore forward Julian Reese also put in a strong showing for Maryland, recording a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, even while often matched up with the uber-athletic Jackson-Davis.
“Definitely tried to take on that challenge,” Reese said. “[Jackson-Davis] being so highly-touted in this conference and in the country, kinda took that personally. Kinda tried to go at him and feel like I did what I had to do to get us the [win].”
Senior forward Donta Scott chipped in 19 points himself — despite shooting just 6-of-18 from the floor.
“His shot’s gonna come around, I know it is,” Willard said of Scott. “He got some great looks tonight but I think he’s back to slowing down a little bit. I think he’s enjoying the physicality, and again defensively, he’s got the hardest assignment every night because of what we do defensively really depends on him.”
After trading blows for the first few minutes, the Terps began to rely on shooting threes to no avail. They started 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, and Indiana extended its lead to 22-15 just over halfway through the first half, forcing Willard to burn a timeout.
“I just kinda reminded our guys that, you know, I asked them, ‘If someone could make a shot, it would be really helpful,’” Willard said, recalling the timeout. “So I kind of just joked around with them and just relaxed them a little bit because we had gotten — I thought we started off good and then we missed some shots and we got tight and I started seeing a bad pattern happening and I just thought they needed to relax.”
Willard’s squad quickly regained its footing after it regrouped, playing through its superb defense. The Terps forced seven turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t commit any, attempting to disrupt Indiana’s attempts to force the ball inside to Jackson-Davis. Even though Jackson-Davis had his way for the most part, managing eight points and 11 rebounds in the first half, Maryland’s pressure forced Indiana into plenty of mistakes and dared his ensemble to beat it, which it couldn’t.
The Terps turned their defensive success into offense and outscored Indiana 22-7 in the final nine minutes of the first half to head into the break up 37-29.
All eight Hoosiers that saw the court scored, but one of Jackson-Davis’ usual right-hand men barely made an impact. Five-star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino entered Tuesday averaging 15.4 points in Big Ten games but didn’t convert a field goal before only three minutes and 45 seconds remained in the game, held to just a free throw in the first. He finished with a measly three points on 1-of-14 shooting.
“Just trying to make him take tough twos, really just trying to make it tough for him. You know he’s a great player, highly recruited coming out [of high school] so just trying to win the matchup myself and really just trying to go at him was key,” Young said of the plan to slow Hood-Schifino down.
The best guard on the court Tuesday was Young. He entered the game averaging 24 points per game in home Big Ten contests and continued to prove himself as Maryland’s most potent offensive weapon, making three of the team’s five converted 3-pointers and showing off his elite finishing ability.
As the second half began, the Terps’ lead quickly lessened though, as they — who have become accustomed to fast second-half starts at home — turned the ball over three times in quick succession.
But Maryland weathered the storm, heading to the under-12 media timeout with a six-point lead after both teams went quiet offensively, playing into the favor of a physical Terps team.
“That’s what we really try to put an emphasis on, is just being physical, and really just pushing through,” Scott said, noting that his team ended up shooting 29 free throws to Indiana’s 12. “We knew they was gonna be a physical team and bump us and stuff like that, so we just tried to play through the bumps and just let the referees make the decisions from there.”
Jackson-Davis, who started out ice cold on the offensive end in the second half, began to have his way with the Terps in the later stages of the game but failed to overcome a double-digit deficit.
Even with its success at home this season, the biggest unchecked box on Maryland’s resume remains its lack of a conference road win. It’ll get perhaps its best shot at changing that Saturday when it travels to Minneapolis to take on last-place Minnesota.
Three things to know
1. Turnover battle. Not only did the Terps force Indiana into committing 12 turnovers, but more importantly they were able to limit their own giveaways, only turning the ball over five times Tuesday. Even though their shots weren’t falling with consistency, they avoided allowing Indiana to run in transition and get easy baskets.
2. Maryland overcame poor shooting. The Terps didn’t put together a classic offensive performance Tuesday but were able to make up for it with a fantastic performance on the other end of the court. Jackson-Davis made his presence felt on the stat sheet but still struggled to take the game over, and a poor performance from Hood-Schifino made the Hoosiers’ uphill climb to come back from their deficit even steeper.
3. Maryland swept its three-game homestand and is back above .500 in Big Ten play. The Terps needed to hold serve at home to improve their standing in both the Big Ten and the postseason picture, and they did just that. Now on a three-game winning streak for the first time in conference play this season — they hadn’t won back-to-back conference games until beating Nebraska on Saturday — Maryland needs to carry its momentum onto the road to gather wins there.